Donna Kellogg.

Donna Kellogg. (Illustration: Claudia Escobar/KQED)

Donna Kellogg could brighten a room just by walking into it.

The 32-year old Oakland resident worked for Highwire Coffee Roasters at both the company’s San Pablo Avenue and Flowerland nursery locations in Berkeley and Albany, respectively. Prior to that, she was a longtime employee at Berkeley’s California Theater.

Friend and former California Theater coworker John Laux remembers Kellogg as “one of the kindest people.”

Laux and Kellogg played music together under the moniker Mouth Juice — him on bass, her on drums. “It was experimental music, kind of like weird noise jams, but we’d always turn them into something fun,” Laux says.

Donna Kellogg.
Donna Kellogg.

Kellogg’s friend John Benson remembers the California Theater after-hours scene fondly. “Pretty much everyone who worked there would put on midnight shows and use the movie sound system to do experimental sound events,” he says.

Benson spent about a month in 2008 traveling and playing music with Kellogg in a bus converted to run on biodiesel — a project known simply as “John Benson’s Bus.”

“We gutted an Oakland AC transit bus and took it on the road as a mobile venue,” Benson says. “Bands from whatever town we were in would come onboard and play.” Benson says sometimes the bands would play while the bus was on the move, and people would dance holding onto the roof for support.

The adventurous venue-on-wheels was a welcoming space for Kellogg. “Donna went through a really hard time,” Benson says. “When we went on the bus trip she had just lost a brother, but she remained such a positive person.” Kellogg’s younger brother, Nick Garber, died at age 18.

Artist and musician Aurora Crispin met Kellogg in 2006, when they both lived in Oakland. Their friendship was so immediate that they got matching tattoos one of the first times they hung out.

“I have three dots on the palm of my hand and she has two,” Crispin says. When the two friends high-fived, their tattoos would complete a five-dot pattern. “Certain people you get a hug from and it’s like you’re dancing with them,” Crispin says.

Though the friends were in and out of touch over the years, Crispin says they remained close. “Every time I would see her it would be like no time had passed,” she says.

The marquee at Landmark's California Theater in Berkeley after Kellogg's death was confirmed. Kellogg used to work at the theater
The marquee at Landmark’s California Theater in Berkeley after Kellogg’s death was confirmed. Kellogg used to work at the theater (Photo: Michael Deane)

Another friend, Bianca Foss, remembers Kellogg as similarly steadfast. “She was the only person I know who didn’t have Facebook or a smartphone and still remembered my birthday,” Foss says.

Laux and Crispin both remarked on Kellogg’s recent interest in nutrition studies. “She was going back to school,” Laux says. “She was really turning things around. Getting really serious about nutrition and her life. She was just on such a good path, it just breaks my heart.”

For all her friends and the Bay Area community at large, Kellogg’s absence is palpable. “The world’s not going to be the same without her,” Laux says.

“When I first heard about the fire,” says Benson, “I went down to the coffee shop because I thought she would be a good person to hang out with and talk to. I had no idea.”


For more of our tributes to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, please visit our remembrances page here.

For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.

Donna Kellogg, Local Musician and Adventurer on ‘Such a Good Path’ 27 December,2016Sarah Hotchkiss

  • Sue Slocum

    Thank you to Donna’s friends for this wonderful tribute to her. She was just as you said in this article, and many of her family and friends have told me that they feel as though you gave her the best memorial so far. I am very grateful to you; and I agree that my Donna was on such a good path, too! I appreciate so much your words and love for our darling daughter
    Thank you, Sue and Keith Slocum


Sarah Hotchkiss

Sarah Hotchkiss is KQED Arts’ Visual Arts Editor and a San Francisco-based artist. She watches a lot of science fiction, which she reviews in a semi-regular publication called Sci-Fi Sundays. Follow her at @sahotchkiss.